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   SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois' top Democratic legislative leaders are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to reject Gov. Pat Quinn's appeal of a lawsuit over legislative pay.

   Quinn halted lawmakers' pay in July until pension reform was achieved. A Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled last month that the move was unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to be sent back pay, with interest. An appeal is being reviewed by the state Supreme Court.

   House Speaker Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton dispute Quinn's argument that the Illinois constitution only bans mid-term increases in pay.Illinois' unfunded pension liability is close to $100 billion, due largely to lawmakers shorting or skipping payments. A committee of lawmakers has been working on one possible reform package that could save $138 billion over 30 years.

 
Published in Local News
Saturday, 05 October 2013 08:40

Thousands visit Illinois' online marketplace

CHICAGO (AP) — More than 150,000 people have visited a state website to learn if they qualify for Medicaid or to buy health insurance on a new online marketplace.

The marketplaces are a key part of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, which were launched Tuesday.

Kelly Sullivan is a spokeswoman for Illinois' site, Get Covered Illinois.

She said as of Friday, about 12,000 people have submitted applications for Medicaid after completing an online screening tool.

But glitches continue on the federal site where Illinoisans may comparison shop for insurance. The government has said it's working to address the problems.

Sullivan says the state is working on educating residents about the health care law and will step up advertising once the federal site can handle increased demand.

Published in Local News

FREEPORT, Ill. (AP) - Hundreds of people across Illinois have been registered as concealed-carry instructors. One of them is a reserve deputy with the Stephenson County sheriff's office.

Rena Kerchner formed the company Cloaked Carry LLC. She tells The Journal-Standard in Freeport that she wants to teach residents to be concealed-carry certified before Illinois launches its program next year.

Illinois approved a law in July allowing the public possession of a concealed firearm. Anyone who wants to carry a weapon first must complete 16 hours of training from a state-approved instructor. Those instructors must use the state's training curriculum. Illinois is the last state in the U.S. to allow concealed carry.

As of Thursday more than 850 instructors had been established across Illinois.

Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says he plans to talk to the Legislature about making sure state police have enough resources at their disposal to deal with a backlog of applications for gun ownership.

The Illinois State Police continues to struggle with a backlog of applications for gun ownership. So it remains to be seen how they can handle an influx of requests for permits to carry concealed weapons.

The department has 49,000 applications for Firearm Owners Identification cards awaiting approval.

Police estimate there will be 400,000 applications for "carry" permits in the first year.

Quinn says he wants to make sure police are able to do their jobs.

In July Illinois became the last state in the nation to allow residents to carry concealed weapons.

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Companies that want to perform high-volume oil and gas drilling in Illinois may begin registering with the state.

But it will be several months before companies may apply for a permit to use the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law regulating fracking in July. It created a two-step permit application process that requires companies to first register with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

IDNR won't accept applications for drilling permits until a legislative committee approves rules. Spokesman Chris McCloud says that process - which will include public hearings - will take months.

Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, chemicals and sand to crack rock formations deep underground to release oil and gas.

Opponents fear it will pollute and deplete water resources.

 

Published in Local News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Public health officials expect older students at the University of Illinois to sign up for insurance coverage through the new Affordable Care Act.

Julie Pryde is the administrator of the Champaign Urbana Public Health District. She said Tuesday that many graduate students don't have insurance.

Gyung Min Choi and his wife, 32-year-old Minyoun Ham were at the office Tuesday to find coverage for her.

Choi is student at the university. He said his wife is about five weeks pregnant and didn't have health insurance. So she hasn't yet seen a doctor.

He said their only option otherwise would be private insurance that might not be affordable with his $24,000 annual income.

The Champaign-Urbana area has about 40,000 students studying at the University of Illinois.

 

Published in Local News

CHICAGO (AP) - A budget director for Gov. Pat Quinn says if the federal government shutdown proceeds, Illinois employees paid by federal funds could face temporary layoffs as early as Wednesday.

The budget office had no estimates Monday for how many employees would be affected.

Abdon Pallasch is Quinn's assistant budget director. In a statement, he says that the timing of the layoffs would depend on existing resources and individual agencies. Agencies that could be affected include Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs.

During the last shutdown in 1995, about 1,200 Illinois employees were temporarily laid off. They were hired back after two weeks.

Pallasch says most state agencies have sufficient funds to provide services in the short term, but a longer term shutdown would have a greater impact.

 

Published in Local News
Saturday, 28 September 2013 10:25

Snags a concern as Ill. health marketplace opens

CHICAGO (AP) — Days before the launch of President Barack Obama's health care law, Illinois officials say there will be snags as the new health insurance marketplace opens Tuesday.

Officials insist none of the problems will prevent anyone from getting insurance by the start of the new year. But some acknowledge there's a risk people may be discouraged by delays and glitches and give up on the program.

The hurdles include a lag in completing the certification of hundreds of workers who've been trained to help consumers sign up for coverage. So most won't be able to assist people with the process initially.

There are also software problems that are delaying the transfer of applications to the Medicaid program.

People have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage that starts Jan. 1.

Published in Local News

   CHICAGO (AP) - An Illinois judge promises to rule on the future of a lawsuit seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

   The lawsuit was filed last year by 25 gay couples who want the right to marry.

   Cook County Judge Sophia Hall is expected to rule Friday on a motion to dismiss the case.

   Lawyers for five downstate county clerks who are defending the ban want the case tossed. Plaintiffs' attorneys want the judge to let the lawsuit stand - then rule immediately that they won the lawsuit and that the ban is illegal.

   The clerks won permission to defend the ban after Cook County's top prosecutor and the Illinois attorney general refused to do so, saying the 17 year old ban violates the state constitution.

   Illinois legalized civil unions two years ago.

 

Published in Local News
Friday, 27 September 2013 02:15

Quinn: Juvenile justice has made great strides

   CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn says he hasn't seen a report released Thursday that details inadequate conditions at juvenile detention centers, but Illinois has made "important strides" with fewer juveniles incarcerated.

   Quinn told reporters Thursday that Illinois has to have a system where young people who make mistakes pay their debt and face consequences. He says if the report raises issues, they'll be looked at.

   Watchdog group the John Howard Association released a review Thursday on conditions at a Kewanee facility specializing in treatment for juveniles with mental health issues.

   Another report was submitted in federal court as part of the settlement. It describes incarcerated teens mowing lawns during the school day and being routinely subjected to more solitary confinement than necessary.

   Juvenile detention centers house more than 800 juvenile inmates.

 
Published in Local News

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